Today (15 December), up to 100,000 nursing staff are taking part in strikes in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, in objection to years of real-terms pay cuts and concerns over patient safety. A further day of strike action is planned for Tuesday 20 December.
RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “For many of us, this is our first time striking and our emotions are really mixed. The NHS is in crisis, the nursing profession can’t take any more, our loved ones are already suffering.
“It is not unreasonable to demand better. This is not something that can wait. We are committed to our patients and always will be.”
We’re campaigning for a pay rise to overcome years of real-terms pay cuts and to protect patient safety by allowing the NHS to recruit and retain the nursing staff it desperately needs.
Since strike action was announced last month, we have repeatedly asked Health Secretary Steve Barclay to open formal pay negotiations. However, ministers have declined every offer and have instead chosen strike action.
Pat, who is visiting picket lines today, said: “I have tried to negotiate and get governments to act. They’ve had every chance but they chose to turn their back on us. As hard as this is, we won’t turn our backs on our patients. That’s why we’ll be on picket lines today, and I will be with you.”
Above: 'Watch: Pat Cullen's message to RCN members on the eve of strike action'
These strikes could be the beginning of a longer period of action if governments continue to refuse formal pay negotiations, or if pay talks don’t result in a satisfactory outcome.
Meanwhile, plans for strike action in Scotland have been paused after the Scottish government returned to the negotiating table. We’re consulting eligible RCN members in Scotland on the revised pay offer and the ballot closes on Monday 19 December.
In the rest of the UK, nursing staff and our supporters will be attending picket lines, drawing attention to our demands for fair pay and patient safety.
Even if you can’t make it to a picket line, you can support the strike on social media using the hashtag #RCNStrike, or by explaining to friends and family why nursing staff are on strike.
Pat added: “Today, we strike for fairness. We strike for the future of our NHS. We strike because it’s our right – and our duty – to stand up for fair pay and for patient safety.”